3 min

Put festival money where your mouth is

Although leadership issues remain, it is clear that the highest hurdle the Pride Committee Of Ottawa must clear in its quest for long-term stability is securing sustained funding.

Facing a deficit in the neighbourhood of $100,000 after this year’s festival, Pride board member Robin Duetta recently met with Ottawa City Council, along with representatives from other Ottawa festivals, to discuss the need for the city to improve how it funds local festivals.

While the City Of Ottawa did grant the committee a $50,000 loan guarantee in April – which now constitutes half of the festival’s massive deficit – the city did not provide any direct financial assistance or in-kind support to Pride 2004. And yet each year, the committee is required to pay thousands of dollars in fees to city hall for festival-related services the city provides for Pride events.

“Two years ago we got a grant from the City Of Ottawa for $3,000. [But] it cost the committee $32,000 in services back to the City Of Ottawa for that festival,” Duetta explains.

“If the City Of Ottawa kept its grant money and yet included Pride under their insurance policy and stopped charging us for our police services, stopped charging us for barriers, stopped making us go to other [outside] contractors for security, stopped making us go to other places for toilets and bike rack removals – if they stopped all of that, they’d have about a $40,000 impact on the Pride Festival – and that’s just Pride,” Duetta told Capital Xtra last month.

City Council could learn a lesson from their colleagues a few hours east and west. Other large cities across Canada actually sponsor Pride and/or provide direct financial assistance to their local Pride festivals.

Frank Chester, executive director of Pride Toronto, says the assistance the festival receives from the City Of Toronto is “critical” to the organization’s continuing success.

“The City Of Toronto does provide us with support in services and in-kind services, which makes our event much more affordable to present. And that’s been going on for a number of years,” says Chester.

Chester adds that this includes police services, assistance with barricades, site fees and help with the festival’s clean up and garbage collection – services, as Duetta noted, that could save the Pride Committee Of Ottawa $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

“That’s the kind of relationship that we have [with our city]. They know about us, and when there is a discussion they include us at the table,” says Chester.

“In many ways it is just helping us to coordinate with the different city departments to make sure we are talking to the right people and that they are aware of us, and that they continue to support us with those kind of services,” says Chester.

Chester adds that while Pride Toronto is thankful for the support it receives from Toronto, committee members and staff are careful not to take the city’s much-needed support for granted.

“We feel that we are very fortunate,” he says.

And Montreal’s annual Pride celebration, Divers/Cité, is no different.

Suzanne Girard, the festival’s general director, says although Quebec “functions differently” than Ontario in regards to how its provincial government funds its cultural events, it is still receives significant financial assistance from its home city. And similar to Toronto, the City Of Montreal also supports its Pride celebrations by providing the festival with in-kind services.

“The biggest support we receive would be the logistics,” says Girard.

Over the past few years, however, Girard says it has become much more difficult for non-profit organizations to secure enough sponsorships and government grant money to continually run in the black.

And so, she says, each year planning the festival becomes “a gamble.”

“I think every gay Pride, you start and you don’t have the money in the bank. It’s impossible. Whatever it costs [to put on the entire festival] you can’t have it in the bank,” Girard explains. “If you had to wait to have the money in the bank to move, I don’t think that gay Prides would exist. So it is always a gamble and unfortunately sometimes they go under.”

Somerset Ward Councillor Diane Holmes agrees the city must find ways to not only improve Ottawa Pride’s long-term financial outlook, but that of all Ottawa festivals – many of which often find themselves running in the red.

“We, as a city, need to get our festivals on a stable financial footing,” says Holmes. “And that would mean that we need a more comprehensive policy regarding festivals.”